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Farbotnik animals transferred to care of neighbor

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MASSENA - The animals on the farm of the late James A. Farbotnik are being transferred to the care of Nicole Harvey, a neighbor and friend to the Farbotnik family who owns a hobby farm.

When Mr. Farbotnik died on Nov. 13, he left behind a variety of animals on his farm on state Route 37C. His five children have been placed in foster care since his death.

Following his death, Hughy Blain, the dog control officer for the town and Brasher and a backup for the Massena Humane Society’s dog control effort in the town of Massena, stepped in to take care of the animals, a task that he says has no end date in sight.

When he was contacted by New York State Police about the animals following Mr. Farbotnik’s death this month, he found a field of animals that included 11 minitiature horses, three cows, five pigs, nine piglets, six chickens, eight ducks, seven dogs, “three rabbits that I can’t catch” and more than 35 cats, all needing attention.

“It’s great that Ms. Harvey is stepping forward,” according to Heidi Bradish, director of the Massena Humane Society, which will be helping to provide food and equipment for the animals. “She has a lot of experience with animals. She’ll be the perfect person.”

Ms. Harvey said she will care for the animals until the estate is settled and a decision is made as to what will happen with the animals.

“Hopefully some kind of conclusion is reached shortly about what’s going to happen with the animals,” she said. “For now, I’m going to do the best I can to financially cover anything.”

Ms. Harvey added that she would gladly accept food donations for the animals. Food donations to the animals can be made through the Massena Humane Society, Ms. Bradish said.

Neighbor and friend Scott DeShane said he will be helping Ms. Harvey take care of the animals, and will donate hay as well.

“I’ll feed them as long as I have to,” Mr. DeShane said. “I’ll help those kids take care of those animals.”

Ms. Harvey and Mr. DeShane said they were close friends with Mr. Farbotnik.

“If he needed someone to watch his children, the children were always more than welcome at my house,” Ms. Harvey said. “If I needed hay, he would bring me hay. If I needed a fence fixed, he and his oldest son were right there to help.”

Mr. Blain said he’s glad Ms. Harvey is taking over in caring for the animals.

“I don’t care who’s (feeding the animals) as long as someone’s doing it,” Mr. Blain said. “If she came right (after Mr. Farbotnik’s death) and said she could do it, I would have let her.”

Mr. Blain went to the Massena Town Council for guidance Wednesday night regarding a scheduled electricity shut-off at the Farbotnik farm. A shut-off would have complicated feeding efforts, and might have allowed the animals to escape from the electrical fence that surrounds the farm.

Mr Blain said he’s worked with Massena Town Attorney Eric Gustafson and has since resolved the issue with the Massena Electric Department. Mr. Blain could not provide specifics as to who is footing the power bill.

Ms. Harvey also alleged that Mr. Blain has not been feeding the animals twice a day, as he has claimed.

“It’s a mess. Animals are basically starving, and there’s a garage full of food that he didn’t touch,” Ms. Harvey said.

Mr. DeShane agreed with Ms. Harvey, saying he had never seen farm animals as hungry or in as bad of shape as the Farbotnik animals have been in recent days.

He added that signs suggested Mr. Blain hadn’t been going to the farm twice a day to feed the animals.

Mr Blain denied the accusations. “I was there every day, twice a day,” he said. “Just because they didn’t see new tracks (doesn’t mean I hadn’t been there). The snow melted.”

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